NYU 2031, an expansion plan that has faced opposition from Greenwich Village residents, NYU faculty and preservationists, has a new prominent opponent. Former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern has signed onto a lawsuit that details how the city unlawfully gave NYU rights to public parkland.
The plan requires the development of two million square feet — though as much as 6 million square feet may be used — over 25 years while maintaining sustainability and transparency, with their proposed additions available online.
However, Stern disputes NYU’s legal right to the property, saying the property is public parkland. However, the space was never formally designated as parkland on the official city map, according to city government and NYU.
Still, Stern said a city map designation is unnecessary if there is implied dedication of a city space.
“[The sites] have been used and enjoyed as recreational parks for decades and, for all intents and purposes, are parkland in the eyes of the public and the Parks Department,” said Stern, according to his affidavit.
Furthermore, Stern claimed he attempted to designate the property as parkland during his term as Park Commissioner, but that NYU was the only neighboring property owner that objected to the designation.
Despite Stern’s endorsement, NYU issued a statement stating that Stern’s accusations were ungrounded.
“The 40-year, well-documented history of this site unambiguously demonstrates the city’s position on these properties,” said NYU in a public statement issued in response to Stern’s affidavit. “The hail-Mary pass — which is what the petitioners offered today through this action — is an attempt to circumvent or entirely avoid the scheduled judicial process so the Courts would not have time to review the record. The move only further demonstrates that their case is without merit.”
The Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031 doesn’t only oppose because of legal ambiguity. Terri Cude, the organization’s co-chair, fears broader consequences.
“The Community Action Alliance opposes NYU 2031 because it will permanently change the nature of Greenwich Village,” said Cude, referring not only to the flora and fauna of the Village but also to its character. “New building shadows will kill off the trees, shrubs and plants that nurture birds and butterflies on their migrations and disrupt entire ecosystems.”
Dr. Mitchell Joaquim, professor of ecological design, architecture and urbanism pointed out that the alternative of building outside a city could make the problems of sprawl worse.
“In general, development within an existing high-density urban condition offers greater opportunities to efficiently share resources such as transportation, energy, water, food and waste,” he said.
Lauren Singer, a CAS senior and environmental studies major, feels that while the NYU Office of Sustainability is forward-thinking, the 2031 project should place more focus on renewable energy.
“If NYU is going to expand, they should do everything in their power to be as progressive as possible,” said Singer. “That might mean pushing the boundaries, but if there is any institution that has the capacity to do that, it is NYU.”
Komal Patel is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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